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Hello, English forums.

I request your assistance one more time. I am in dire need of help and I'm frustrated as can be. You see, I have to teach (ESL) the use of several time sentence connectors amid which there's by the time.

I understand how to use it and more often than not I am able to tell when it is being naturally used and when it is not.

The problem is that my group is in a beginning level and I can only work with simple past and past continuous.

Certainly, you can use by the time with both as in:

By the time I arrived, my parents were eating dinner.

I see that it feels awkward when you try to join two simple-past clauses. For example:

I cooked dinner by the time you went to the shop.

I guess it's not entirely wrong, but it feels strained somehow.

So here is when I start getting frustrated. I say, OK, you cannot use by the time to join two simple-past clauses together. The problem is, sometimes you can!

I finished cooking dinner by the time you went to the shop.

I was tired by the time I finished.

Why is it different now? What changed? Why can we sometimes use by the time with simple past only and why can we not on other times?

I hope someone can walk me through this. I'd appreciate it a lot! Emotion: smile
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IwazaruBy the time I arrived, my parents were eating dinner. ...

I cooked dinner by the time you went to the shop. ...

I finished cooking dinner by the time you went to the shop.

I was tired by the time I finished.
I suspect it's this:

by the time only goes with an "achievement" predicate, in other words, with a predicate that expresses an event that happens instantaneously. went to the shop is an "accomplishment" predicate.

by the time I recognized him
by the time he noticed ...
by the time we began ... / finished ...
by the time he reached his destination
by the time I realized that ...

(Research Vendler's four event classes for more information: states, activities, accomplishments, achievements.)

CJ
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Thank you, CJ. You're a lifesaver! Emotion: happy

Hello, In my opinion I think it should be used with past perfect as in

By the time I'd arrived, my parents were eating dinner.

I'd finished cooking dinner by the time you went to the shops.

I was tired by the time I'd finished.

This may be more British English but it feels more natural to me .


Hope it's useful